Slots bids head to court
No surprise, the fight over who gets Maryland's slot machine gambling licenses is headed to court.
This was bound to happen, but may have come somewhat more quickly than many would have predicted. How this will play out is impossible to know, but it sure makes David Cordish's promise to break ground on a casino by the end of the year look a lot less likely.
House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell said yesterday that Gov. Martin O'Malley needs to get involved and "go back to the drawing board" on the bidding process. Republicans have been in I-told-you-so mode of late, saying the lackluster bidding for Maryland's five slots licenses is proof that O'Malley and the Democrats crafted a lousy slots program with a tax rate too high to be attractive to any decent gambling operators. They may well be right that Maryland's 67 percent tax rate -- among the highest in the nation -- discouraged bidders. Ditto Baltimore City's effort to get $32 million a year in rent for its slots site.
But I'm not sure there's anything Maryland could have done that would have prevented this from winding up in court. Look at Pennsylvania -- even with a lower tax rate and a much better economy, the Keystone State's slots program took years to get off the ground amid legal wrangling, political maneuvering and a few indictments for good measure. There's just too much money at stake.